Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Tuesday (11/15) North and Central CA was seeing new north angled raw swell hitting at head high plus and clean early, but getting blown out pretty fast. Down south wrap around energy was producing waves maybe knee high at best and reasonably clean. Southern California was getting residual north angled swell with waves up to waist high and warbled in the afternoon. Down south surf was knee high and hacked by northerly wind. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some bare rideable background swell with waves waist to maybe chest high on the peaks and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell at waist high and chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
High pressure is to remain the dominant weather feature controlling the Central Pacific for the time being. It is modeled to retrograde to the west some, allowing more energy to drop down the Canadian and US West Coast providing raw swell for those locations, but Hawaii is to remain pretty well shut-out of the cycle. Swell from a gale in the extreme Northeast Gulf of Alaska produced 28 ft seas that were fading while falling down the Canadian coast Sun-Mon (11/14) making it barely to British Columbia before dissipating. A small pulse of swell moved into Northern CA Tues (11/15). A better gale is forecast falling down the Canadian and Pacific Northwest coast on Thurs-Sat (11/19) with up to 30 ft seas, possibly setting up raw swell pushing down to Central CA on the weekend. Another follow-on gale to follow right behind on the same route with 22-24 ft seas Sat-Sun (11/20) offering more raw swell for the US West Coast. Some form of gale activity is to try and wrap up off Japan on Wed-Thurs (11/17) generating 18-20 ft seas at best and providing little for Hawaii if anything. A slightly stronger pattern is forecast flowing flat east and located just south of the Aleutians pushing into the Northern Gulf starting early next week possibly offering a little better swell potential for both Hawaii and the US West Coast, but again the core of the activity is to be displaced well to the north.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (11/15) the jetstream was flowing flat east Japan then splitting before reaching the dateline with most energy ridging hard north on the dateline before turning and tracking east over the Eastern Aleutian Islands then into Northern Canada. Something that almost looked like a trough was forming over the Kuril Islands. A fraction of that energy was splitting off to the south on the dateline flowing flat east under Hawaii and then into Southern Baja. In all there was no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to persist but with the trough over the Kuril Islands pushing east slightly, still ridging over the Gulf of Alaska and then falling southeast just off the coast of British Columbia and pushing inland over Oregon. Limited support for gale development possible in the weak trough off the Kuril Islands and then again just off British Columbia. Beyond 72 hours jet more of the same is forecast but with the trough off the Kurils easing northeast and dissipating while pushing into the Bering Sea on on Sat (11/19). Maybe some limited support for gale development in the far Northwest Pacific at best. Another pocket of wind energy is to fall south along the US West Coast too on Sat-Sun (11/20) possibly supporting gale development there, but very close to land. High pressure and the big ridge is to continue controlling the core of the Pacific.
At the surface on Tuesday (11/15) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 850 nmiles west of San Francisco ridging some into the Pacific Northwest and generating 15-20 kt north winds blowing down the Central CA coast. East winds were also blowing along the south side of the high pushing into Hawaii at 10 kts. Low pressure as trying to organize over the Kuril Islands generating 30-35 kt northwest winds pushing off the coast of Northern Japan. But in all, no swell producing fetch of any real interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure off California is to diffuse some, only to regenerate over the Western Gulf of Alaska late Wednesday (11/16) at 1032 mbs as a new small gale low is to develops just west of extreme Northern Canada and starting to fall down the coast producing a pressure gradient between the low and the high, generating 35-40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 22 ft at 52N 145W (aimed directly down the 317 deg path to NCal but likely shadowed south of Monterey Bay). Winds to be fading from 30 kts off British Columbia and Washington on Thursday AM (11/17) and aimed well at Oregon with seas to 30 ft at 50N 140W (319 degs NCal). In the evening winds dropping from 30-35 kts off Oregon aimed southeast with seas still 30 ft at 47N 136W (319 deg NCal). On Friday AM (11/28) the fetch is to shrink while falling southeast with seas dropping to the 28 ft range off Oregon 45N 131W (again on the 319 deg path into Central CA) targeting Cape Mendocino late in the day. Fetch is to be down to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino in the evening with seas fading from 24 ft at 41N 128W (308 degs NCal). Some degree of larger raw swell is likely for the Pacific Northwest down to Pt Conception if all goes as forecast.
Also a patch of 30-35 kt northwest winds is to push off Northern Japan on Wednesday (11/16) making it barely to the dateline Thursday AM before dissipating. Seas forecast to 20 ft Wed AM (11/16) at 36N 155E, then at 20 ft Wed PM at 40N 160E. 18 ft residuals are forecast at 40N 165E Thursday AM on the 310 degree path to Hawaii and 2100 nmiles out. Doubtful much if any swell will result for the Islands.
to 45 kts pushed through the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska reaching northern British Columbia late. Seas built to 28 ft at 55N 138W, totally outside even the Central CA swell window. Reinforcing fetch continued in this area pushing seas to 29 ft late Sunday, but again outside even the Central CA swell window. Some sideband swell resulted working it's way down the Pacific Northwest coast and into North and even Central CA Tues (11/15), but nothing remarkable.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/15) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 800 nmiles off the Central CA coast and ridging into Oregon generating 15-20 kt northerly winds over outer waters and something less nearshore. Unremarkable. On Wednesday a new gale low is to be building in the Gulf of Alaska and falling south along the Canadian and Pacific Northwest coasts pushing high pressure out of the way down into Northern CA, though weak northerly winds to continue down into Central CA. The low is to make better inroads south on Thursday reaching Cape Mendocino but high pressure and weak north winds to still be holding control over Pt Conception. A weak front to reach Pt Arena with some light rain before dissipating. Finally on Friday (11/18) the low is to fall southeast pushing into Oregon but with strong high pressure just east of it, generating northwest winds at 20 kts over all of California nearshore waters by nightfall (including Southern CA) and making a mess of things. Rain is to fall south with the north winds reaching Morro Bay by nightfall with maybe 4 inches of snow in Tahoe. Another gale is to be right behind it with a bit of a break in the north winds pattern Saturday for North and Central CA. Sunday north winds is to move in behind as the gale fall south with perhaps a light offshore flow for North and Central CA (north of Monterey Bay) taking hold as the core of the low passes south of these areas. Rain moving into Central CA late Saturday pushing through Southern CA late Sunday. Another 4 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe. A light winds pattern is expected for all the state Mon and Tues (11/22) but perhaps a stormier pattern to be building in the Gulf bound for the Pacific Northwest down to North CA, or perhaps high pressure will deflect it all northward.
At the surface on Tuesday (11/15) in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs another small gale is to drop out of the Eastern Gulf tracking southeast off the Canadian coast Friday evening (11/18) with winds to nearly 40 kts. Seas on the increase. Sat AM (11/19) 40 kt northwest winds to continue tracking southeast down the Pacific Northwest coast with 22 ft seas at 50N 140W (319 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 30-35 kts but over an increasing area with seas to 24 ft at 44N 133W (off the Oregon coast). Fetch is to dissipate Sunday AM (11/20) with seas fading from 20 ft at 39N 130W or on the 292 deg track to NCal and 400 nmiles off the coast. Another shot of larger but very raw swell possible for all of the North and Central CA coast.
Also starting Monday (11/21) the models suggest some elongated fetch in the 30-35 kt range is to be pushing just south of the Aleutians extending from west of the dateline into the Central Gulf of Alaska, as high pressure falls south. This just might be out only shot of cross dateline energy from the Active Phase of the MJO. No much is to result (18-20 ft seas over a large area), but it's something to monitor.
As of Monday (11/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 14.82. The 30 day average was up slightly at 10.62 with the 90 day average up slightly at 8.58.
Current wind analysis indicated light westerly anomalies were blowing from Indonesia under the Philippines and New Guinea reaching to the dateline and getting limited exposure in the far Western Pacific. Weak east anomalies were over the Central Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO continued trying to build over the extreme West Pacific with the Inactive Phase all but gone. The models indicate a week from now that building easterly anomalies are to take over from Indonesia to New Guinea and the dateline with weak westerly anomalies from there to the dateline over the Central and East Pacific. This suggests our big Active Phase of the MJO (a little sarcasm) is to be breaking down and moving east into the Eastern Pacific. The longer range models suggest that the Active Phase of the MJO is already well entrenched (starting about 11/7) in the West Pacific and is now moving over the Central Pacific and expected to be dissipating there about 11/25. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the same. This Active Phase already looks very weak, but is our best shot at providing gale enhancement potential for a while. The Inactive Phase is to be in control 11/23-12/10, when the next Active Phase appears probably around mid December holding through Christmas with luck.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/14) continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Southern CA to the dateline and increasing their coverage. Embedded were pulses of cooler water still pushing from east to west. Cooler than normal waters were also present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. This is typically what is referred to as a 'horseshoe pattern'. At least the cooler waters off the US West Coast were not expanding coverage anymore nor getting cooler as they had in late July into August. But warmer than normal waters are not building any over the Galapagos Islands, and if anything were getting eroded pretty quickly on into Central America. Overall the big picture looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things are unchanged. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, then returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) developed in mid-July locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. There were some fluctuations but by late July it remained locked in place and held strong in August with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii. It lost a little strength in September and October but not much. As of 11/15 it was still in place under the equator at 120-140W at -2 C below normal and stalled. This area of cool subsurface water was blocking the normal warm flow to the east and suggests that overall a pattern biased towards the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Spring of 2012. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance during tropical/summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
Mavericks Surf Shop Grand Opening - Sunday, December 19 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. rain or shine! Check out the new home of Jeff Clark's Mavericks Surf Shop, now located at 25 Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor. The shop features much of Clark's surfing memorabilia, classic boards and photos, as well as an entirely new line of Jeff Clark original Mavericks clothing, accessories and surfboards. The shop has been open in the new location since December 8, and the Grand Opening party is set for this coming Sunday, just in time for Christmas. The party starts at 2 p.m., with live music, food and drinks. Jeff Clark and many Mavericks surfers will be there to meet the public. Local restaurants Ketch Joanne's and Princeton Seafood will serve up delicious food, while San Francisco Wine Trading Company is providing the beverages. The shop will be open all weekend, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were replaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was accomplished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table